Could I please get some feedback on my 'All Quiet on the Western Front'essay?

  1. Describe a place or time where a main character felt very comfortable or uncomfortable in the written text. Explain how techniques helped you to understand the character’s reaction(s). Note: Techniques could include figures of speech, syntax, word choice, style, symbolism, structure, or narrative point of view.

War destroys the human soul. Erich Maria Remarque uses his narrator Paul Baumer as a way of proving this message to the reader throughout his novel ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. Remarque shows how war has transformed his narrator from a simple human civilian with aspirations and dreams to an animal which survives on instinct and is uncomfortable in civilised situations. One moment in the text which highlights this is when Paul returns home on leave.

Erich Maria Remarque was a soldier for the German army throughout the Great War. Wounded at the Third Battle of Ypres, Remarque spent the remainder of the War at an army training camp. ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ was burnt by the Nazi party in the 30’s as it was seen as a ‘betrayal of the German Frontline soldier’ while Remarque was striped of his German citizenship and fled to Switzerland, where he lived out his days before dying of heart faliure in 1970.

Prior to Paul returning to his home, Remarque had already pushed through the idea that he is uncomfortable with the thought of being off the battlefield . In chapter 5, Albert Kropp, one of Paul’s former classmates, poses the question to the men; what will they do in peacetime?
Haie Westhus wants to stay in the army, while Detering simply wants to return home to his farm. However, when it comes time for Paul to answer, he finds the options overwhelming and cannot picture himself as a civilian.
‘The only possibilities there are-all this business with a job, studying, earning money and so on-they all make me sick, because they were always there and they put me off. I can’t think of anything, Albert, I can’t think of anything’. All at once everything seems to me to be pointless and desperate’. This is followed by the analogy ‘Two years of rifle fire and hand grenades-you can’t just take it all off like a pair of socks afterwards-’.
Remarque is using Paul’s confusion to show the reader how the War has become embedded in these men; it has more of a hold on their personalities, their emotions, their behaviour than anything else ever has had. Paul is symbolic of the ‘lost generation’, and Remarque is using him here to show that the war has destroyed every part of him that made him human, instead rendering him to some animal with little to no visions of the future or of hope. War has ruined Paul-and all other young men in the war, dead or alive-and has taken away any chance of having a normal life.

Chapter 7 sees Paul return home to his family. After greeting his mother and sister he walks into his old bedroom for the first time in years and starts reading through his old books.
‘With my eyes I implore them:speak to me-take me up-take me up again, you old life-you carefree, wonderful life-take me up again-’.
Paul is desperate to return to the way things were. Throughout the chapter he becomes angrier and angrier, and moves through the 5 stages of grief. He denies that things have changed-’It will be like this, if I am lucky, when the war is over and I come home for good. I shall sit here, the same as before…”; Paul is denying that anything has changed, and convincing himself that he is the same person that he was before he left. This then moves into anger, when Paul is searching through his books in an attempt to remember who he was and tries to convince himself that the hold that the War has had no impact on him(bargaining) ; “… it has no real power over us, it;s hold on us is only a superficial one.”. Paul then falls into a depression as he realises that he has well and truly been changed by the war-’…it’s over’, referring to his time as a civilian- and acceptance -’I leave the room quietly’-.
Remarque uses this scene to show the hold that the war took on the men. Their experiences have made them uncomfortable in the things that men-in fact, boys- their age should find peace in such as books or drawings. Remarque is showing the reader how the unjust and merciless nature of war rips away anything the men have been, and everything they will be-they are well and truly lost.

The chapter also shows Paul out drinking with his father and his friends.
Paul opts to wear his civilian suit although it is too small for him-his father is disappointed that Paul does not want to wear his army uniform-. This shows Paul’s desperate attempt to regain some of his pre-war self.
While they are sitting together, Paul’s father and his friends express interest in the frontlines, however when Paul informes them the being out on the battlefield is not as glamorous as they believe it is they simply laugh and continue discussing war tactics among themselves. Paul is uncomfortable and Remarque is using this scene to show how ostracised the returning soldiers were from the rest of society. When they are on the battlefield, they are comfortable; they are with people who understand them and know what they are going through, and they are not expected to pretend to be anything they are not. However, upon returning home these men are suddenly the exception rather than the norm. This drastic change makes the returned veterans uncomfortable, just as Paul is, and shows how the expectations that the civilians have of war are far from the reality. Remarque is highlighting the impact that the horrors of war had on the ‘lost generation’; making them more comfortable when lying between blood and death than out for a beer with their fathers.

Remarque wanted the world-and future generations-to see what the horrors of war do to men’s souls. He wanted to show all those who encouraged war, whether they be politicians or civilians, that warfare makes people strangers within their own likes. Unfortunately, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ is just as applicable in the 2020’s as it was in the 1920’s, with wars raging across the globe. Perhaps world leaders should look to the lessons of the past before making decisions that will impact the future of their country and the young generations within them.

Kia ora bmcgee

Lots of great stuff here - you use a lot of evidence to support and have a good sense of the wider ideas that the author is trying to get across There is a nice sense of how these ideas are applicable beyond the text too.

Two things that would help improve this even more

  1. Clear topic sentences - rather than starting with plot, try to signpost your argument with key words from the question “Remarque further highlights the uncomfortable moment when…”

  2. Ensure being really deliberate about BOTH parts of the question - there are not many times here where you are actively talking about techniques here and remember “Explain how techniques helped you to understand the character’s reaction(s).” - this could be as simple as where you are talking about the five stages of grief - making a point to analyse that Remarque has used structure in a deliberate and effective way here. Always be explicit.

Overall - a solid job :slight_smile: